In the last chapter of the book, Coates talked about the cloning of both plants and animals and the moral questions that arise from it in regards to our relationship with nature now, and where these innovations will lead us in the future. This article discusses some of the recent developments that have occurred in the field of combining mutations that abolish the shuffling of genes during sexual reproduction. This is basically working to force plants to clone themselves in their seeds, instead of having the seed produced be a mixture of the genes from the male and female genes. The hardiest crops are historically a hybrid of two genetically disparate cultivars. However, within a few generations the genes that make this hybrid so robust have disappeared through sexual reproduction. By being able to create clones of the parent plant in the seed farmers will be able to propagate their own seed and crops as opposed to buying it each year. It would also shorten the time that it takes to create new plant breeds. (On average it takes about ten years.) They have been working on this for quite some time but have recently had some success working with Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress). So far this is the only plant they have worked with so it’ll be interesting to see how it works with other crop varieties.
Reading the comments that had been left by readers at the bottom of the article were very diverse and interesting showing that this debate over whether the cloning of plants is a good idea is still a very hot topic. There were many valid arguments made on both sides. Some of the memorable quotes include:
- “This is an assault on the FOOD SOVEREIGNTY of NORTH AMERICA !”
- ” And as far as cloning goes, it’s great for any infecting organism to wipe out the whole crop. That’s why need genetic diversity, least we not forget the Potato Famine in Ireland ! They based their potato crop on 3 or 4 verities, while in India there were 300 verities they had to choose from, of course they picked only a few that produced the larger potato’s…If they had diversified their crop, and not based there economy on a few verities they would not have suffered the losses !”
- “It is immediate need in agriculture to have a high vigour crop generation over generation to feed the world in coming time. It is very good initiative to have high quality GM crop where traits are under control of propagation.”
- “This is a formula for planetary eco-cide.”
- “Excellent Article. In fact Genetic Engineering and Cloning are the latest advances in Science. The words ‘cloning’ and ‘genetic engineering’ are often used by people as though they mean the same thing.”
It is interesting how there are such varying opinions on the topic and how people are so up in arms about it. There are both good and bad outcomes that can be traced back to cloning. It must be decided as we go if the gains outweigh the costs. I feel that Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore from India put it best in his response to the article: Ethical and safety concerns have been raised around the use of genetically modified food. A major safety concern relates to the human health implications of eating genetically modified food, in particular whether toxic or allergic reactions could occur. Gene flow into related non-transgenic crops, off target effects on beneficial organisms and the impact on biodiversity are important environmental issues. Ethical concerns involve religious issues, corporate control of the food supply, intellectual property rights and the level of labeling needed on genetically modified products.